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Sharing Stories of People Affected by Type 1 Diabetes Part I

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Marshall McIntyre Marshall McIntyre
David Weiss David Weiss
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

The rising cost of insulin is draining wallets and lives of people with Type 1 diabetes.

Many can't afford the drug, which is the only treatment for the disease. But, even before the costs become a factor, the disease takes a toll on everything from patients' career choice to mental health.

Type 1 diabetes is not a preventable disease, but it's one that can hit at any time in a person's life and forever change the course of it. That's what happened to Marshall McIntyre, a Charlottesville man who was forced to start life over.

”Your blood sugar is 460, you're in diabetic ketoacidosis, you have Type 1 diabetes, you're going to be kicked out of the military. All in one sentence,” McIntyre said,

That was how McIntyre said he found out his life would change at age 30, just 10 days after he was promoted to technical sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.

”I went back to work, and I was kind of a leper,” he said.

At the time of his diagnosis, McIntyre was stationed in Hawaii.

“So while I was still doing shift work, and working every day and taking care of the people that work for me and answering to the bosses, they told me I was unfit for duty. And then I asked if I could go home. My boss said no,” said McIntyre.

University of Virginia Orthopedic Trauma Director Doctor David Weiss did part of his residency as a flight surgeon. He was trained for what happens in the Air Force in cases like McIntyre's.

“There are certain positions that are considered disqualifying, and how disqualifying depends a little bit on what your job is,” said the doctor.

Weiss says because of the military's role today, every branch needs its members to be able to deploy to difficult environments at any time… places where medical access could be limited.

“You may have to work long shifts, you may get dehydrated, you may not have control over what you're doing for six or 12 hours. So, it's not like you can say, 'hey I want to take a break and eat a candy bar because my blood sugar feels low.' You may or may not have that opportunity,” Weiss explained.

One year after his promotion, McIntyre was medically retired from the Air Force.

“It sucked,” he said.

The military covers his medical care and supplies for life. McIntyre says that doesn't make up for losing what he planned to dedicate his life to.

“I don't think you can diagnose someone with a chronic illness and then give them a fair trade...for anything,” McIntyre said.